Monday, October 31, 2016


Why is it I always wind up feeling
sorry for everyone? Nothing escapes
scrutiny. This group of veterans, outside
their clinic, man what a mess was that. I
felt so bad. Poor guys; and the let them
out to smoke. Mercy killing?
There's a place a town or two off; I pass
it often  - they make beautiful conversion
vans, for handicapped and wheelchair
people. What another shame is that.
All sorts of bad things.
Out front, there's a dead clock-tower no
one's ever fixed. Yet I remember when
it was put in  -  big to-do, newspaper
story, people and photos. Now, that's all 
over too. This life's a sad, sad place,
running at a sad, slow pace.


Yes, yes, I've got plenty of ideas. Mr. Misfit 
lives right here. Closing my eyes only brings
me a memory. More of that and I'll be gone.
I can never tell myself exactly what I want:
a glandular table to place things upon, or
a nice soft floor where things can land
as they fall. Outside the Milano Deli,
those girls insist on eating in threes.
One wears the scarf of a foreign land;
something about Gay Paree. The other
has, in one of her hands, a new telescope,
in a box. New York people often use
them, from upper floors  -  looking out,
or down, or  -  so I've read  -  just across
the way at what their neighbor does. All
so true, but patently eerie.
There is a third girl, but I won't tell. She's
been forced to make this trio, I know.
Doesn't look it, can't be right, won't fit 
in. An eyelash of discontent. A shadow
of alienation. The doubting hands
of a female Thomas.


I carried the torch through the
pounding streets. Must have been a
Halloween parade. Everyone looked
like some ghoulish shit. I couldn't find
a leader, couldn't tell who was it, never
found the entry or the way. I just said,
'I want out!'. And the jerks all told me
they were dressed as the deaf. 
'Again?', I said, 'Again?'

8807. HARM'S WAY

Shouldering a rifle, like 
walking, a chore. Big 
families are like that, 
I guess. When I knew
my parents, they were
pretty poor. When the
others knew them, they
had so much more. Five
kids and a  twelve year
distance. Does this radio
work ship to shore?


Psychological religion.
Well, not just religion.
I used to think the entire
swath of living was made
of people each on their
own private 'psychological'
quests. I probably do still
think that away. It wasn't
just me, or Leo Benjamin,
and me, or my situation, or
the seminary, and me. It
was everything all bundled
and jumbled together: a
massive, crying, scream
to be heard, by a million
different voices of
humanity all at one
time. Using symbols
and objects instead of
just saying what's on their
mind. It was part of my
freeze-frame, check-mate
layout of time. How could
I go anywhere or do
anything when frozen
solid in that outlook? But,
that's where I ended up, 
and I believed nothing else.
There was one activity I
took on, in the seminary,
one year, which was great.
I don't know how I was
selected for this, or I
forget it all anyway  -  it
may just have all been
coincidence; can't recall  -
but this activity, in its way,
really helped me gets this
envisioned idea of what
I later called 'psychological
religion' formalized and
made concrete. As this
task went, whenever one
of  the students, kids, friends,
pals, whatever I should call
them, in the school took sick,
or got a bad toothache or an
attack of this or that or broke
a finger or something on
an athletic field  -  whatever  -
when they needed medical
transporting to nearby-enough
Camden, for a medical visit,
hospital, check-up, dental
emergency, any of that, I'd
get to go along. It was usually
that new black-guy priest,in
his 64 Ford, new then, who
would be the driver, and,
along with me, came the
patient. I was, perhaps,
'peer guide' or 'comfort kid'
or something. No big deal.
I got a free ride, often at
night, an adventure, a real
problem ('how much more is
that going to bleed, or swell
up?' Stuff like that). It was
usually an hour or two later,
after the 'wound' when we
got there. (Nothing happened
in the seminary, 'fast'; and
perhaps the idea of slow
'seminary time' is to be
something  I can go into
in a future chapter). We'd
arrive, Camden being, back
then, by the terms of the
seminary farmland, a big
city. There'd be brick 
buildings, busy corners,
roadways, etc. I can well
remember, for instance,
one dental-visit night, going
up to the glass-brick and
illumined corner office of
some dental clinic and 
stepping out to wait by 
the car. (I never much
went inside, it being more
the job of Father Alexander,
or whatever his name was, 
and the patient, of course. 
I'd just stay there, taking in 
whatever sights and sounds 
there were  -  it was all like 
a secret, shrouded poetry
to me already at age 13; 
everything I saw had 
wonderment and
excitation).  A year or 
so later, whenever that was, 
there was a big hit song, 
by Petula Clark, called 
'Downtown'. Whatever that
song was about, I'd didn't 
really care; she seemed 
perfectly apt speaking to 
me, and what I saw on 
the fierce and busy 'city 
trips.' Man, if being in 
Blackwood had a fringe
benefit, that was surely 
it. Or one. When I stood
out there, on a darkened 
and unfamiliar 1964 city
street, I was in Heaven.
'Religion' could have the
rest. I never realized how
downtrodden a really bad
city could be. It was already,
economically, dead. The
housing stock looked beat,
the old buildings of the areas
where business and factory
work was done seemed 
smashed, really hurting,
or already abandoned. 
Factory gates, I could see,
just listlessly swung open, 
a hinged entry to nothing.
There hadn't been a shift-bell
in five or ten years, for sure.
Nothing at all. If there were 
guards, they'd long ago left 
on the last train out. or so 
it seemed. This was poor 
and destitute stuff. I always 
figured at least it gave us 
something to pray for, the
vision of helping the poor 
suckers, bringing back some
blood to a long blood-dead 
place. Mostly scary was 
the image I'd get  -  on all 
these big old, wood-frame 
leftover homes, with their 
big old porches and chairs 
and porch-swings and 
mattresses on them, yes,
there'd be black people  -  
seemingly dead, vacant, 
comatose, never moving, 
Just staring out. In the 
same silence that we 
drove through to get to 
these places, they sat. 
Any five of them could 
have been the pepper-pickers 
I'd seen, but these people 
had no life, no energy at 
all. It sure looked to me 
as if America had long ago 
left them behind. I'd wonder
why. And who or what had 
done it? Eisenhower? 
Kennedy? The lost 
'promise' of Kennedy's 
Camelot? Johnson? Was 
all this the planned result 
of some killer's random
Dallas bullet? How could
it be? That was only a year 
ago, then. Ruination like this,
I said to myself, takes a 
generation or more. Eight, 
ten or more people per 
household, Five households 
per house, maybe, I was 
just guessing, but none of 
it was pretty. America wasn't
'great,' as I saw it; it was a 
black revolution waiting 
to happen. All that strange, 
dark, ghost had to do was
stir. Little did I know.
The idea of psychological 
religion, I think, began right 
here, It' a sort of combined form
of sentimentality, good-wishing,
positive-thinking, idealistic ideas,
charity and feelings of good-will,
all combined. All those poor people,
arrayed like death-masks on their
porches. So bad; oh, they deserve
redemption. That poor child, the
boy in pain and tears, crying
into the dentist's chair, he needs
a calming and comforting hand.
Come to think of it, they both
need the Savior, the
comfort of Mother Church, the
hope and uplift of deliverance.
All the sick, and the hurting, 
and the downtrodden, I want
them helped...Yes! That's how
religion speaks. That's how the
psychology of religion rings
forth its personages and stories
and endings. Faith, faith, faith
is in the choir! I suddenly
realized  -  there was nothing
behind anything. Nothing
but the spatial filling up a 
void with the only the very 
best psychology of positive 
attitude and good force.
In fact, Naivete! And
that's what any of this
support-group religion
came down to. That's why
it always ended up 
depending on the childish, 
sweet, the lamb, the innocent, 
the slaughter, and the 
redemption! It was nothing
more than support. A support-
network of like-minded people
intent, together, on a task of
upholding each other.
And, just as swiftly and vividly,
I'd realize I had no part of it,
in it, with it, nor any desire
to partake 'of'' it. My host was
all inside, within me, and I
was hosting my own sort
of show.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


I'm outside the hat shop, watching some
queer wearing his blue derby. I wonder 
what's with that. I'm in the city center, 
where the young girls used to pine for 
me, until I grew so ugly and old : a 
battering ram hamster of yellow and 
gold. Yet, they're still young, and I'd 
still have them, show them a thing or
two. How to ride a mount, a trusty
steed. Where to plant their flowers,
how to plant the seed. 
There's no sense in me pretending,
my fine and lovely lass. If I'm
still here in seven years 
I'll kiss you on the ass.


She weren't no lady, and I could tell. She
had a Bob Dylan sticker on her inner
thigh, and a line from Leonard Cohen
on her eyelid when she closed it. I
sensed psoriasis too, and plenty of
other stuff. Weasels ate my flesh.
Where'd I hear that before?
The lay of the land  -  that's usually
a geography term but that was what
she was called. And I should have 
known. Two days before Halloween, 
and I'm shucking shells where
oysters should have been. 'You
really complement me,' I said.
She didn't understand, and I
let it go at that.


I'm in the sculpture room,
listening to torture radio 101,
which is somehow it -  one
of those idiot kids with purloined 
hair and tattoo'd smudges where
her lips should be has left it on
again. I figure myself for a
goldrush of doubt; any moment
now. The parking lot out front is
blemish-free  -  all those over-the-top 
regardless cars are piling up again : 
the distraught mothers with the 
dangly airs and all those little kids 
they drag around. Yes, I can see 
them from here. Six kids and a 
declension of two. You'd think 
they'd just give it up by now; 
use their hands instead, No
matter now. man am I beat.
This shadow play is killing
me, a monstrous salvation
I'd long forgot about.


Out back of the seminary,
along a warren of sandy roads,
pretty much all to nowhere,
there stood a few cabins and
actual places, deep in the pine
woods, where people lived.
Strange, South Jersey families
at that point  -  I never knew
what their kids did, schooling
and the rest. In fact, except for
the times I did see them, I
never saw them, if you can
understand what I mean. The
woods hid things. I always
used to think it had to do
with smell  -  not them, I
mean the smell of the land
and soil (sand). There was
just some enticing and
seemingly important, or
different anyway, aroma
that the seasons and the
mornings, or the rain or
the Autumn, brought up,
drew out from the soil. It
was captivating  -  and it
wasn't really 'soil'. I don't
know what 'sand' is, even
though I've read it's 'silica',
can be burned into making
'glass' and silicates. No
matter, none of that made
any sense to me. This was
not that. It was that 'other'.
Something unmistakable.
All that crap is science and
techno-talk. This was,
instead, the world
primeval. This was
the quiet beginnings
of time and awareness.
It was a very fortunate
thing, for me, I felt, to
be there. Because I
soon realized I could
'read' that. I could
sense and understand
that old slate of time,
as it presented its
ancient self before
me. When everything
else was beginning to
look hopeless, there,
it gave me a new impetus
to stay, and withstand,
and put up with, the
other junk going down.
I was still forming;
wasn't done yet.
We had seasonal workers
there too - some of the farm
fields around us had been
leased to Campbell Soup
Co., over in nearby Camden  -
fields of peppers, mostly,
but other things too.
Anyway, when harvesting
 time came they'd send
flatbed trucks of workers,
pickers and bushel baskets,
and these people, all day,
would be walking the fields.
Everything was hand-picked,
no power implements. It
was very old-school, quiet,
and spiritual too. Like the
old south, these black people
would do call-and-response
talking, chanting, singing,
and shouting. prayer and
not. A remarkable sight
and sound. Old sharecropper
women, it always looked
like, with head-wraps and
big loose plantation dresses
or whatever. They be in the
fields declaiming about
something, or singing. Or
just quiet. A few of the
field-foremen types
would be standing along
the edges, chewing straw
or just standing out. No
weapons or anything that
I ever saw, but it was
'authority' nonetheless.
The field-hands heeded
it  -  brawny black guys,
younger women, and the
old  -  the uncertain
certainty of being
watched and controlled.
It all used to fascinate
me. Some days, from
the second floor classrooms
in the main, education
building, I'd  be able to
see and watch, from
where  I sat. Very akin
to daydreaming, I'd let
it all take me away.
I think that when you're a
kid things happen to you
differently. There's more
of an 'elastic' sense to all
things  -  time and ideas
can be stretched, one can
formulate what going to
occur by reading omens.
I used to be able to tell
which way a decision
would go  -  'for' or
'against'  -  just by
picturing the result.
Whether or not I was
foretelling or predicting
it, I never knew. Yet, it
often happened I'd turn
out to have been correct.
(Of course there' were
only  two alternatives
presented, always a 'yes'
against a 'no', so failure
against success was a
1 out of 2 proposition.
Very good odds). When
young, everything somehow
seems more alive or more
electric, with possibility
or with the 'magic' of
chance and possibility.
As the grim years pound
along, it all gets more
and more dreary, over
time. I'd guess that a
person just stops
demanding a result
and instead just begins
'accepting' results. No
push back, no fighting
Those old cabins and
cinderblock houses 
out in the sandy stretches 
(I'd never seen 'cinderblock' 
homes before. They are 
just what they are called. 
Square, right angles only, 
squat, and almost boring 
to look at. Made only of
stacked/mortar'd cinder-
blocks, and windows with 
frames, of course. There 
was never much activity, 
and much more mystery). 
Broken cars, something 
like a 'driveway', if it had 
to be called such. Small
wooden buildings and 
things around too, made 
from old lumber, leaning, 
pallets, stacked. Here and
there a couch or some chairs, 
a campfire spot, always 
blackened and fresh with
recent burning. Usually a
dog or two, some chickens.
One time, my friend Leo
Benjamin and I, coming 
upon one of these, did 
make contact with the 
sweetest, most definitely 
mysterious girl, of about 
maybe 13 or 14 herself.
I was completely taken 
by storm, though I could 
hardly speak a word. It
was all about Leo anyway,
he was the talker-guy. I
just dreamed. I don't know
what they ever had or got
going, but Leo was gone
no matter, by the next 
semester. If it had anything
to do with this situation,
and if it ever had 'advanced',
I never knew. But I can still
see that place and scene, and
the girl, It's like a forever in
an instant.
It's very difficult to 'proclaim'
anything  - but in a Christian sense
on is supposed to 'proclaim' at all
times. I felt blessed and worthy.
I saw life in a slightly different
light, even though it was stranger
and more difficult. Those sandy
hills, those cinderblock houses,
a lot of that stuff was all the 
same, just repeated. The kind
of old, archetypal  scene you

imagine - a cantankerous guy
standing off in his yard, 'cussing'
and hanging onto his shotgun
or 'thirty ought six', which was
like a really large-bore serious
country boy rifle. Wouldn't want
to mess. Yes, the Pine Barrens
were sure a point off from normal.
I always felt that if I'd had to
really tell anybody the sort of
life I was leading, back then, 
1963 or so, they would have
been totally amazed. As I 
look back, even now, in the
writing of these things, it's
almost other-worldly for 
me to glimpse back into a
deep and mystical past along
paths and by-ways I actually
walked, talked, and partook. 
Yet, I tell you, this is so.


I sensed I didn't care, and I
knew that made things tough.
I was sitting, way down in some
southern Jersey outpost in the
pure middle-fringe of the
Pine Barrens, on a sandy
roadway -   nothing paved,
farmland around me, a few
pigs squealing as I threw
them their slop, it was a
late October, long afternoon,
the sky was fading to a dull
sort of orange, the roadway
paths and the endless scrub
pines had taken on a strange
orange glow themselves. I
didn't actually 'know' it was
the Pine Barrens, if it was.
That was a name people
 gave the area  -  not much
yet development, an odd
water-table, sand and little
hillocks, animals and ground
creatures, a filter-like sandy
soil, through which everything
liquid ran  -  self-cleansing,
as it were. Back home, before
all this, my father used to use
what was called 'Diatomaceous
Earth', or something like that,
in the pool filter system  -
same thing. Some ancient,
granular soil, from the real
true heart of the land, through
which the water ran to be
cleansed. Talk about Paradox.
Running through dirt in order
to be cleaned. Like Salvation
At each turn of events, there
was criticism, always: 'Done
incorrectly, skipped step five,
forgot about his, did too much
of that.' I got tired of hearing it.
What did I know anyway  -  if
all the others knew the rights
and the corrects, let them do
it all. I wanted my refuge.
There came a point that I
realized there was no way
in hell I wanted to become an
active agitator or representative
for the existing structure of
whatever 'religion' was going
down. Candles and candelabra.
Fire and scent. Incense and
peppermint, curse of Mankind.
(No, no, that was later).
Little boy lost, come blow
your horn, the sheep's in the
meadow, the cow's in the corn.
There seemed just always
too much going on : men
in bad suits, pomaded hair
and narrow ties. It always
seemed that politicians
ended up looking like
real-estate sharks, real-estate
sharks wanted to be like
barbers,  and barbers wanted
to be Managers of some
Woolworth's somewhere.
They are all interchangeable,
and stupid too boot. It's all
the same now, just slightly
changed, a new and better
'frequency', as it were. I had
two, interchangeable, cheap
dark-fabric suits, and I hated
each of them. On days when
I had to wear them (often
enough, and in a place
like that I always questioned
why), I gulped. Hated each
moment. The rest of the time
I had some really lame, cheap
and tacky, 'school' clothes.
Overused and over-worn.
What the hell does a 13-year
old kid, in his second year
in some private-school dump,
know about laundry, or care?
I know I didn't. The bloom
had long ago, and quickly,
left this rose.
There was an outpost, a place I
found once, deep in the barrens.
It was a cranberry camp, for all
the seasonal pickers. Abandoned,
off-season, I guess, no one around.
During cranberry season, the area
is busy  -  Ocean Spray and the
others, they have plants and
warehouses around here and 
there. This location, onto 
which I stumbled, took some
getting to  -  scrub woods, lots
of weedy stuff, an old path. 
Eventually, by walking, 
(obviously, there must have 
been another, better-traveled,
road in, maybe from a front
or side I'd not seen), I passed,
with surprise, a collection of
bee-keepers' things  -  those
hive-cabinets they keep or
whatever they are. About 
thirty of them, in a semi-circle 
range of each other. And then
some barracks-like buildings.
What was cool was that, 
communally, each building,
perhaps having no running
water, faced and shared a 
sandy, outside court wherein 
was a collection of shower 
stalls, sinks, three or four
outhouses, and a lean-to
type shelter of bench seats
along a wall. Making it even
more astounding, the line of
sinks ran in a row, and arrayed
along it, every 10 feet or so,
were metal, chrome soap dishes,
shoulder-high, and in each one
was still a bar of soap. All this
was mysterious and strange to
me. It (only vaguely) reminded 
me of Boy Scout camp : Camp 
Cowaw (little pine), in which 
we too had had a sort of
'communal' shower and wash
area, though nothing like this 
one. And that was 1959 anyway.
This one was, first, much larger
and far more industrious in its
set-up; serious, camp-like. I
immediately wondered about it.
Was it current? Only men? 
Only these seasonal men 
workers (I'd seen cranberry
bog workers, in the past, of
both sexes)? It all seemed like
a labor-camp, almost as if
some slavery set-up took place
there. Work by groups. All
quite confusing. But, in any
case, I loved it and thought it
to be the neatest-looking place
I'd seen. We had just recently,
in the seminary, done a Nazi
prison-camp play, entitled
'Stalag 17', and it reminded
me, immediately, mentally, 
of that entire milieu and 
scenario, which we'd only 
tried imitating or suggesting 
on the stage by props and
imaginings  - chairs, a few
tables, a fake, painted
camp-view out. In the theater
and on stage, that stuff is all
done by the visual suggestion
of props and painted scrims.
You kind of have to 'get' the
point across, almost scientifically,
with the most minimal of space
and effects How big, really, is 
a stage, and one 70 feet away 
as well? It's all trompe l'oeil
(trick the eye) kind of stuff. A
gimmick, yes, but an important
and vital one for telling the
purported storyline and getting 
 an adventure-in-time across. All
suggested. All made. By contrast,
this was solid-real? I wasn't that
sure. And then my mind, as it 
usually does, and did then too,
began extrapolating outward with
the ideas : how like life is all this?
Props and visual suggestions put 
to work to accelerate our own
somehow self-accrediting 'version' 
of acceptance and belief in what
we are viewing. It has its own
time-scheme, an opening, an 
Act I, a changeover, a 
denouement, a tragic, or a comic,
 lesson, an Act II, or III, and, 
curiously, an ending  -  always 
that. The vast curtain comes down.
Just like water, getting
cleaned by running
through dirt? I